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The All-Outdoors Whitewater Rafting California River Blog

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Archive for the 'River Tales (Near Truths and Canyon Nights)' Category


Oh Lovely Hills of the South Fork, Oh Sweet Sweet Revenge!

July 25th, 2008 by Malina

It’s a small miracle that I can sit here and type today.  I had thought that after the gauntlet was thrown down, the challenge risen to, the doubters forever silenced, I would be forced to creep off into a dark corner somewhere, down a bottle of Advil, and eat bon bons for a week and half–that is if I could even lift hand to mouth.  My arms are soooooooooooore!  But I am still standing.   

You see, last summer I carelessly mentioned that I, office bound, pasty white, non-athlete that I am, used to actually raft the South Fork of the American in a boat that I rowed myself.  Joe, our SF manager, looked at me in disbelief, and basically said he didn’t buy it for one second.  Indignant, I flexed my puny and soft white arms, stomped my pedicured feet, and loudly proclaimed that I would show him.  Weeks went by, and then months.  Summer turned into fall, and it became too cold to raft.  Wetsuits and drysuits were offered but still I demurred.  In time, Joe came straight out and said “Malina, I am calling you out.  You never rowed the South Fork–you are a teller of tall tales and I am calling your bluff.”

This could not stand.  I was stuck.  I had to actually prove my former glory, prove my prowress and row me some serious South Fork!

So, with my trusty sidekick Amy, that’s exactly what I did.  I’m not sure my skills were what anyone would call impressive–hey!  I’m rusty!  and out of shape!–and I may have nearly decapitated a kayaker (um, dude, yellow-kayak, black helmet, nose-clips dude–I’m sooooo sorry!  Lame oar etiquette!  My bad bro!), but here’s the proof:  I’m not just an indoor cat …….

(Above: oooooohh…. hard core focus)

(Right: Ok forget focus–this is hilarious!)

Kayaking helpful for rafting? A Case Study on the South Yuba

March 5th, 2008 by Robyn Suddeth

I’ve heard many kayakers utter the following words: “Kayaking improves your water-reading skills for rafting because you learn to respond to smaller and subtler currents.” Well this winter, I have had a lot of opportunity to test that theory. Here is the conclusion I’ve come to: Kayaking certainly does improve your rafting skills, but even more than because of having to read smaller currents, it is because you have to become a quick and scrappy fighter in order to stay upright and/or survive.

When my kayaking roommates are planning trips to narrow creeks (in which rafts don’t fit) I am faced with two options: Inflatable kayak or stay home. Not being one to enjoy sitting at home, I choose to kayak. Mind you, this is not the hardshell, more graceful looking kayaks that star in adventure videos and the Olympics. No, this is the blow-up kind that behaves like an errant and easily distracted toddler even under the best attempts at control. (Everyone else on the trip is usually in a hardshell, however, making me feel especially cool).

Three weekends ago I got another chance to improve my water-reading skills, (more…)

Rafting the Smith River, Presidents Day Weekend

February 23rd, 2008 by Robyn Suddeth

imgp0056.jpgLast weekend, ten All Outdoors guides met up in (very far) Northern California for a weekend of whitewater rafting on the Smith River. The Smith is one of the only un-dammed drainages remaining in California, beginning its course high in the Siskiyou Mountains, and flowing strong and steady all the way into the Pacific Ocean near Crescent City. This makes a rafting trip on the Smith unique in several ways. For one, the river is also a popular fishing run because anadromous (e.g. salmon) populations still thrive in its open, untouched waterways, creating a very interesting mix of hardened fisherman imgp0054.jpgand “crazy” rafters having to coexist on the river’s banks. Who knows what those guys are thinking when we show up in our pink, yellow and green drysuits, sparkling helmets, and similarly colorful boats! Suffice it to say, we get some interesting stares up there.

The Smith is also unique in that it is one of the only rivers in California imgp0086.jpg(worth rafting on), which allows you to enjoy moonlit walks on the beach in between days of rafting. OK, maybe moonlit walks on the beach isn’t exactly what we were doing. More like good seafood and beer at a harbor restaurant. Either way, the ability to smell and soak in both the forest and the ocean in one day is pretty amazing. The Smith itself is one of the most beautiful rivers around, with bright blue water, towering redwoods, waterfalls, and moss-covered canyon walls.

We ran three different sections of the river over the course of three days, a few of which we had so much fun on that we decided to do them twice. (more…)

Some Favorite River and Water Quotations

July 6th, 2007 by Robyn Suddeth

I’m feeling a little bit sappy today. Which, by the way, I just learned can also be expressed by saying: I’m feeling a little bit schmaltzy today. (Gotta love those Thesaurus tools in Word). Anyway, I’ve been reading a really good book written by a ranger on the Green River, and it has inspired me to dig up some of my favorite quotations about rivers. And lucky you, I’m sharing them! Some provoke thought, but most just make me wish I was on a boat right now, in the middle of a canyon far far away…

How could drops of water know themselves to be a river? Yet the river flows on.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I gave my heart to the mountains the minute I stood beside this river with its spray in my face and watched it thunder into foam, smooth to green glass over sunken rocks, shatter to foam again. I was fascinated by how it sped by and yet was always there; its roar shook both the earth and me.
- Wallace Stegner

When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come.”
- Leonardo da Vinci
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Backpacking In the Middle Fork American River Canyon

June 14th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

About a month ago, when the water was still extremely high and the weather a little bit wetter, Kevin Elardi decided to spend a weekend exploring the Middle Fork American River Canyon during a time of year in which it’s not often seen by many people. He told me it had been a great weekend, and then made the mistake of telling me that he thought he might want to write a blog about his experience. Well, at that point he was pretty much committed. (I can be pretty persistent.)

Kevin was happy to comply, though, and I was excited to see that his story had arrived in my inbox today. It describes the canyon beautifully and the parts about high water are really interesting… made me impatient for trips to start running on that river! (Water levels will be too high until the last week of June.) I’ve copied it down below for everyone else to read. Thanks Kevin for sharing this, and I hope more of you will start to send your own river stories. Enjoy!

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Women’s Rugby Team Proves Rowdier Than College Fraternities!

May 25th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

The theme on the Kaweah River these past few weekends has been all about team bonding and brotherhood. With two fraternities doing trips (one from UCLA and one from USC), and then a masters women’s rugby team joining us this last Sunday, we were prepared for some pretty rowdy and crazy days.

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Strange Animals, Lead Feet and Contagious Tents- Our First Weekend Back on the Kaweah

April 25th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

On Friday night, it took hours to get any food or service at our favorite restaurant in town, and strange animals started making noises at three in the morning. Then on Saturday, Brook “Lead Foot” Johnson found herself hiding from a very angry campground manager who was covered in the dust kicked up from her truck, and bad river karma was passed on to an unwitting guide through a harmless-looking tent. What in the world was going on in Three Rivers?!!

As may have been gathered, our first weekend back on the Kaweah wasn’t, as they say, smooth as “buttuh”. Don’t get me wrong- we had a great time seeing each other and the river again. It’s just that there were a few small kinks to make the weekend that much more interesting.

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The Shortest Swim Ever

April 19th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

This last Saturday, Randy and Scott Armstrong organized a fun guides trip down the North Fork of the American River. The point was mainly to have a good time, but also to see what the river behaved like at around 4500 cfs. (A pretty high flow for the North Fork.) Kevin Elardi and I were paddling for Scott in the lead boat, and Brian Coleman guided the second boat with Hunter, Lindsey and Dan paddling. Before putting on the water, Scott informed Kevin and I that we were picked for the lead boat because he figured we were the most capable swimmers in the group. (Very comforting.)

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High Water in the South Fork Gorge

April 17th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

SF 11000.JPGThe slightly skewed deductive reasoning skills of a raft guide:

It is cold, pounding rain, and there are flood warnings on the radio telling people to stay on higher ground.

Therefore… It is the perfect time to put a small boat on the river and go rafting. (Perhaps a clue as to why that law school idea never worked out for me.)

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AO Guides Overnight It in the New River Gorge

April 4th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth
Background Info on the New River:

new river front.JPGCalifornia’s New River is a tributary to the better-known Trinity River, flowing out of the majestic Trinity Alps and dropping in to the Trinity at the end of a popularly-boated section called Burnt Ranch Gorge. The New is described in guide books as a Class III/IV run up to the last 2 miles before the Trinity confluence. At that point, the canyon walls begin to significantly narrow and steepen, and the river plunges into a committing Class V+ gorge. This last section is rarely run by kayakers, and even less often by raft.

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